Brooklyn has increasingly become the go-to borough for New Yorkers to hang their hats. It only makes sense that a serious bar scene has followed. With new places popping up all the time, it feels as if there’s an interesting waterhole on every corner.
Rather than choosing randomly, follow our guide for ten of the most unique places to grab a cocktail in Kings County.
Miles is a cocktail bar that gives off the warmth of a pub. The dimly lit, cozy spot is decidedly laid-back, with friendly service to boot. Roughly a dozen offerings include the Woodbury Campfire, a Laphroaig whiskey and bourbon elixir, and the subtler Mother Shipton, made with Earl Grey-infused gin and egg white. What really sets this Bushwick spot apart, though, is their Monday Mac and Cheese Happy Hour, where gooey bowls of comfort are served gratis from 6-8 p.m. with each drink order.
101 Wilson Ave.
At Julie Reiner’s Clover Club, enjoy high-end cocktails sans the stuffy atmosphere. While it’s always “five o’clock somewhere,” some need to ease their way into the cocktails with more kick. With this in mind, the menu is divided into “brunch cocktails” and “evening cocktails.” During the day, opt for an easy drinking Harvest Moon, made with apple brandy, red ale and ice cider. At night, go for the Rye Reaper, a mixture of rye, rum, amaro and a cardamom tincture.
210 Smith St.
Fans of the “bartenders choice,” which allows patrons to customize a drink by choosing the spirit, this low-key bar caters to libation nerds of all stripes. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you really want here. A good place to start in the winter is with The Eternal, an inventive twist on the hot toddy, made with a chamomile grappa liqueur. Warmer weather begs for a Bizarre Love Triangle, a blend of aloe, cucumber and peppered gin.
177 South 4th St.
The colorful bar at Leyenda (Photo: Leyenda)
Mixologist Ivy Mix and her mentor Julie Reiner (of Flatiron Lounge and Clover Club fame) bring an exacting approach to their Latin American-inspired cocktails. Some of their many inventive concoctions include the gunpowder tea-infused Shotgun Wedding and La Sonambula, an ambitious blend of jalapeño-infused blanco tequila, chamomile and mole. Tucked inside a stylish storefront that exudes south-of-the-border architecture, Leyenda stands out in the culinary mecca that is Smith Street.
221 Smith St.
This may be the only dive cocktail bar in the city. If not, it’s certainly the coolest. Housed in a former Bushwick warehouse–with towering ceilings, comfy barstools, whimsical furniture and a pool table–Johnson’s makes it easy to while away an evening. Their pocket-friendly drinks include the whiskey-based Sazerac Sling and the tequila-based Paloma, complemented by grapefruit and thyme. True to the bohemian tiki bar vibe, cans of Lions Head beer can be had for a few bucks, for the truly budget conscious.
369 Troutman St.
Taking its name from a Chicago gathering spot from the turn of the century, Tooker Alley flies in the face of trendy speakeasies requiring reservations or passwords. Hanging Edison light bulbs give the space a cozy, inviting vibe that’s also reflected in the menu by such approachable options as The Woody Guthrie, made with basics like Demerara rum, ginger beer and apple cider. Other more adventurous offerings solidify their hip cred, like the Jose Jones, a bittersweet riff on the Mezcal Martinez, with the name alluding to a lyric from the Pixies album Doolittle.
793 Washington Ave.
Kathryn Weatherup’s namesake bar is a pioneer in the Brooklyn cocktail world, but it’s also where locals go to satiate a craving for an Old Fashioned or Sazerac in a chic, nondescript atmosphere. Equidistant from the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Academy of Music to the north and the Brooklyn Museum and Botanic Garden to the south, the bar makes for a convenient post-sightseeing and pre-show stop.
589 Vanderbilt Ave.
This self-described cocktail laboratory employs science to pre-mix large batches of drinks and serve them on tap in beakers and test tubes. Raisin the Bar, their spin on a Manhattan features its namesake fruit along with the usual suspects of rye, vermouth and bitters. For something even punchier, Agent Orange blends the delightfully peaty Ardbeg single malt with chai, grapefruit and Contratto. If nothing catches your eye, you can always craft your own recipe with the aid of a detailed flavor chart.
41 Wilson Ave.
This stylized approximation of a Southern roadside club features live music, from New Orleans jazz to flamenco, every night without a cover. Dozens of plants hang from a trellis in the backyard, transporting patrons to the Southern charm of the Big Easy. The drink menu focuses on simple, quaffable concoctions. The Hanky Panky blends gin with fresh orange, Absinthe and a grenadine made in-house, while The Brown Derby is a simple mix of bourbon, honey and grapefruit.
345 Grand St.
Night of Joy
“Rooftop cocktail bar” evokes certain images of long lines, bouncers and outrageously priced drinks. This is certainly true of the posh hotels, particularly in Manhattan. Not so at Night of Joy. Enticing, earthy cocktails, like Bison Grass Vodka mixed with apple and goji berries and the basil lime gin gimlet, are priced reasonably (even more so during happy hour). The expansive roof is strung with lights, creating a cozy atmosphere that feels more like a close friend’s backyard than a trendy nightlife spot.
667 Lorimer St.